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Saturday, January 02, 2010

No more noix in November

I feel a tad guilty not to have written a blog since the beginning of December. Not that I envisage the hordes in anxious anticipation of the latest pearls to flow from my keyboard - as if! - but because writing gives me pleasure and there is no reason I shouldn't put pen to paper, as it were, more frequently. It is not as if nothing has been happening over the last 6 weeks or so, the opposite in fact, I just haven't managed to sort it all out in my head into an interesting and pithy article.

Dredging back through my near past memory I recall that the before Xmas period wasn't particularly stressful since we weren't doing any of it chez nous. We usually make our way to Grantham for the UK family festivities returning in good time to celebrate Max's birthday, which, usefully if, like me, you are not a fan of the pseudo celebrations with which we see in the New Year, falls on 31st December.

This year, or last year I suppose, I was reminded a couple of days before Xmas that had we done the usual thing, we would without doubt have either been stuck in the Chunnel or at least affected by the chaos in the aftermath. So, for that, thanks be to whoever!

I finally had my sight tested, very thoroughly, on Christmas Eve eve, and, armed with my new prescriptions we made our way directly to the optician's to choose some frames. I use the plural because the opthamologist gave me something of a choice/quandary! He suggested I go for varifocals but didn't insist, advising that it would be an easier transition at this stage than later, then he thought I should try toric contacts again, although they didn't do anything for me two years ago. They are also twice the price of normal lenses! Max had found a good offer at Général Optique where, he thought, we should be able to get something acceptable within the top-up insurance's - mutuelle - annual allowance of just under 300€. However, even the inexpensive frames I chose, after varifocal lenses, lense thinning and various treatments etc came to an eye-watering 789€. I felt faint. Then, miraculously, a wizzard wheeze was worked out. Not only did the allowance increase to 400€ for varifocal lenses, we were also able to split the order into two and spread the cost over 2009 and 2010 ie the total is covered! Now, as I peer through the centre part of my lenses, I have an understanding of why health care is so expensive in the USA: enormous profits for health connected companies. Shameful!

Our yule kicked off on Xmas Eve as is the wont of adult France (and Europe generally methinks), with an excellent repast at the Bopes attended also by Max's uncle with partner and son. Presents were distributed with the aperatif! The only present I need concern anybody reading this with is the rather generous gift Max and I gave ourselves ie a Wii!

As for the meal, it was of many courses but the pièce de résistance was a fabulous choucroute de la mer or, less appealingly in english, seafood sauerkraut. I immediately realise that only half of that was indeed in english but to do a full "translation" would make the dish inedible!!!

Christmas Day in France, can, in my experience, be a little Boxing Day - esque: dull and boring! We were relieved then to have been invited by the aforesaid uncle and partner to eat at theirs. So, having stuffed our faces till gone one in the morning we duly pitched up chez eux at thirteen hundred hours and started all over again. Except we all wimped out! By the time we arrived at the umpteenth amuse-bouche/entrée we all knew that there simply wasn't any more room inside. We urged a strategic freezer review and thus, somehow, made it to the dessert. Then we began all over again with, thank goodness, simpler fare in the evening when some of partner's family came over.


Why would I choose to give my first entry of 2010 a title referring to November? Quite simply because I wanted to give, albeit indirect, hommage to our next-door neighbour, François Wellemane, he of the long distance bike rides, of the allotments, always ready to shake your hand, call you mon pote and to lend you a garden implement. Although seemingly amazingly fit and healthy for someone on the threshold of his eighties, he was taken ill and died within the space of maybe 12 hours on the Monday after Xmas. It was also his wife's birthday. How many vegetables have we been given over the last few years, how many kilos of tomatoes? And, how many sacks of walnuts for, even though he harvested the crop from his allotment, he wasn't keen and neither is Mamie, his now widow. So, down in the cellar, is the last of the noix and we'll just have to buy our own from now on, though given the way they keep it may be a while before they are fully depleted.

In France it seems that the departed are dispatched much more rapidly than I ever knew back in the UK. So, because of New Year in between, the funeral took place on the Saturday morning in a freezing cold church five minutes walk away. There must have been at least 300 people attending. My lasting impressions are that the priest's jeans were clearly visible beneath his cassock and that the service struck me as being more like a travel rep's spiel to sell time shares in paradise. The stained glass windows were modern but glorious. Mamie was supported on both sides where she sagged grey and bewildered as brother in law August's suit. And no-one sang the hymns apart from a woman who appeared to be in charge - maybe she was a deacon? - and another gentleman on one of those electronic organs. It was icily cold.

The Wii was a huge hit. My mother and her partner visited for a week over New Year, and it helped with otherwise embarrassed attempts at English/French/English conversation. Since then of course, Max has acquired an iPhone with Xmas and birthday monies, so he has moved on technologically!

No New Year's resolutions. Don't believe in them. I have arranged to attend a motivational seminar in London in February that I'm attending with two good friends and that can only be positive. We're also in Paris for the weekend at the very end of the month just in time for personally presenting our voeux to Tatie.