Sunday, 29 January 2012

A new year in the countryside

This year we decided against coming to France to celebrate the New Year.  Instead we are here for a couple of weeks at the end of January. 

East Anglia, where we live in the UK has had very little rainfall since early last year and even recently there was talk about the continuing drought and the low levels of water in the reservoirs.  Here it would appear to be quite the opposite, the ground is very wet and according to our neighbour there has been a lot of rain since our last visit at the beginning of December.  In fact today we went for a walk in the woods where we often go foraging for mushrooms, we have never seen the moss so green and sponge like.  Even the woodland tracks were thick with mud, the ditches were full of running water and there were deep pools of water everywhere. This being the countryside it means that everywhere is very muddy. I am so pleased that we put a thick layer of gravel over our yard several summers ago, at least we can walk around outside and keep reasonably clean.  

Rob has over the years read most of Casanova's diaries.   He was pleased to read recently  that his letters had been bought by the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and that they were part of an exhibition about Casanova being staged at the BnF.  Luckily our visit to France coincided with this exhibition,  so off we went to Paris last Tuesday.  

Bibliothèque Nationale de France
As we drove up to Flers to catch the Paris train the weather looked really promising. Clear skies and crisp air, but the forecast for Paris was heavy rain so I went armed with my umbrella.  On arrival we went straight to the BnF and spent some time looking at the exhibition. As always this was a mistake even in the capital city the restaurants had stopped serving food when we came out hungry.  So instead of a slap up meal to celebrate our wedding anniversary we finally found a cafe serving organic soups, pies and sandwiches.  What we had to eat was tasty and well prepared but not the restaurant experience we had hoped for.  When will we learn, food before culture not the other way around.  

Natural History Museum

Jardin des Plantes
By this time it was pouring with rain and it continued till we got home.  We spent the afternoon walking the streets of Paris under my umbrella, we saw a lot of pavement and not much else as we kept an eye open for puddles. Normally a visit to the shops is not part of the itinerary for such a visit so I must say I knew the weather was getting the upper hand when Rob suggested the best plan would be to find a department store! 

Eventually as it got dark we took refuge on the terrace of a cafe, totally enclosed but for a small opening between the glass walls and the canopy roofing, meaning it can be used by smokers who are banned from smoking indoors. It was however nice and warm under the heaters and we sat and watched the world go by in the rain.  Before heading for the return train we had a good steak and chips which rounded off our day nicely.  Nowhere is particularly pleasant in the rain and Paris is no exception. 

I read in the local paper that there was a 'tricot cafe' being held in the next village, I assumed this would be along the lines of the 'stitch and bitch' groups that are becoming popular in the UK. I know I can knit and I can talk but the question was ' can I knit and talk' in French at the same time?  Having nothing else planned for Friday afternoon I decided to give it a try. I arrive fashionably 15 minutes late and on entering the cafe found just one women standing at the bar drinking coffee and talking with the owner. I asked if I was the only one who had come for the 'tricot cafe', no said the lady drinking coffee, we are now two!  She was very welcoming and explained that she was not a regular either and she had no idea who else would come along. 

We sat down and she brought out her knitting. She was part way through a waistcoat having completed the back and had almost finished one of the fronts. I then brought out my project and she looked in amazement at my very fine wool and very small circular needle.  So with our knitting to talk about we enjoyed an hours conversation about yarns, the lack of wool shops, the change in knitting habits, no longer is knitting done out of necessity as wool is so much more expensive to buy than a ready made sweater, but a hobby for those who want to make something unique.  She went on to explain about her trips to the UK and how she loves the soft furnishings in English houses.  It turned out that she is married to the architect we hired to do our drawings when we applied for  planning permission to put windows in the roof of our barn. Eventually another lady arrived, the organiser, who had been delayed as her cat had needed an emergency visit to the vet!  Two hours later I decided it was time to leave as we had friends coming for supper that evening, promising that I will attend again when ever we are in France.  

For anyone who is interested they meet on the last Friday of the month at the 'Le Coquelicot' in St Fraimbault at 14.30hrs.  

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Happy New Year

I would like to take this opportunity to wish all our friends a very happy new year. 

As for the year ahead - what will it bring? 

Here in the UK we are looking forward to the 2012 Olympics.  We have tickets for an evening of  athletics at the Olympic stadium during the paralympic games.  We tried twice for tickets to the able bodied games but were unsuccessful, so thought we would be more successful with tickets for the paralympics. However we tried to get tickets for wheel chair rugby, as one of our friends had designed one of the  coins showing the wheel chair rugby, and for the same day some athletics.  We have only got the athletic tickets. Never mind, the positive outcome must be that the paralympic games are proving just as popular as the able bodied games, and both sets of athletes need our support.  
In France there will be presidential elections in April.   The 'crisis' around the euro seems destined to  carry on for some time, and it  will be interesting to see who becomes president of France and what effect the results will have on their role in Europe.
The 6th November  will bring the presidential elections in the USA. It doesn't seem that long ago that Obama was elected with so much hope for the future, but so much seems to have happened in the world since then, that he probably couldn't predict.  Who ever is elected to office, in France or the USA, will have a difficult time, no matter what their ideals may be the world economy may dictate what they can do rather than what they would like to do.  

With 3 years 364 days to go before 2015 when the UN hopes to have  reduced by three quarters, (from 1990 to 2015) the maternal mortality ratio and to increase the number of births attended by skilled health personnel, we still have a very long way to go.  If you would like to know more the Every Mother Counts website has plenty of information.  You can also follow them on Facebook.
On a more happy note - it is time to plan the vegetable plot for the coming summer. I must sow the onions and leeks this week. Last years harvest was really good and I am determined we will be self sufficient in onions and leeks this year.  
May I wish you all a very happy, healthy and prosperous 2012.