Muscovy Duck

Muscovy Duck
Roosting on the gate

2011 - My second year of blogging in Brittany

I felt I would like to share some of the photographs I have taken so far this year and some from other years. I live in a beautiful part of Brittany and just love being here. It's a lovely place to photograph and enjoy being in through all the seasons and hopefully this blog will show you where I live my life.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Cats and Knitting

When I arrived at the supermarket checkout on Thursday afternoon, I wasn’t really listening and when the cashier said something about a bag, I said no I didn’t need one.  The boy behind me said he’d have it if I didn’t want it, so I asked her what she had said.  Apparently, as I’d spent more than €50 I was eligible for a surprise bag from the Information Desk.  It contained a carton of vegetable soup, six bags of roasted chicken flavoured crisps and a cellophaned sponge cake.  Ah well – I expect the children will eat them.  The bag however, being a stiff paper carrier, has been taken over by Purrdy.

It reminded me of an incident in 1969, when I was living in London and had a new kitten called Sampsa.  The kitten was first called Sampson and then we found out it was a girl, hence the odd name.  I came back from work one afternoon to find that Sampsa was trying to walk with the string-handled paper carrier, from the previous night’s Chinese takeaway, attached to her.  She had obviously climbed into the bag and on climbing out had got one of the string handles around her neck and had not been able to get it off.

Sampsa used up most of her nine lives in the first few months of her life.  Another day I came home and couldn’t find her at all.  It was an hour or so later when I went up to the bathroom and found her straddling the lavatory pan trying not to be in the water.  Heavens knows how long she had been there.

I sat down on Thursday morning to read 40 pages of Crossing Qalandiya, the book club choice for Monday's discussion afternoon.   It was a short, 160 page, book of letters between an Israeli Jewish mother and a Palestinian Arab mother, who had met once at a conference in Geneva. 

I had decided to read 40 pages a day to get it read by Monday as I was running out of time, but in fact, read the whole thing in the morning.  It held my attention, with me wanting to know how things panned out and I would recommend it.

I made pumpkin soup using exactly the same method as for butternut squash.  I was going to add carrot, but completely forgot - senior moment!  I used just about a third of the pumpkin and will use the rest  for more soups. 

It may not look very attractive in the roasting pan, but believe me once it was liquidised, passed through a sieve and had cream and pili pili added, it tasted lovely and luckily will last a couple more days. 

I started my second sock yesterday but when I took the first one out I realised I had made a mistake in the first one and will have to undo it - buxxer, buxxer, buxxer.  I had forgotten how much cats like moving knitting needles and wool snaking about!

Today I knitted the second sock almost to the top and have put it away now to chill out in bed with recorded television programmes.

I'll finish with a photo of Daisy lying in a way all of the cats do at some time or other, with body twisted so the head and front paws are one way and the back paws and lower body the other. 

Very strange position; you wouldn't think it was very comfortable would you?

Three things I like:

1.   Being so involved in knitting my sock today, that the hours whizzed by.
2.   Hearing from my physio that she can come round and do my back this week.
3.   That for once, I've managed to finished my book well before Book Club afternoon. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My Village and The Sunset Last Night

I carried on walking round the village in the afternoon after spending a very pleasant hour or so with my Breton neighbours catching up with recent news  in front of their new woodburner - a very pretty grey/blue colour and giving out good heat.   In the last couple of years they planted young pyracantha plants round their boundary and the thickly clustered berries on them are absolutely gorgeous.

The next neighbour along keeps goats and sheep.  Here is one of his goats tethered on a patch of grass between two barns.  He's an impessive creature with his long horns and makes my little goats look like cuddly toys.

Going further along the lane, the same man has Breton sheep which rarely get shorn and look very taggy as a result. I used to have this type of sheep, Ouessants,in my first and second years here. They are very sweet to keep as pets.

The field round his lake and the grassed area outside his drive has lots of fungi.  I don't know enough about them to know if they are edible, but they are certainly interesting.  There are several different types, but I think this is a parasol of some sort.

A pile of leaves just waiting for a wind to blow. 

It was a brilliant sunset last night and I spent about three quarters of a hour, on and off, taking photographs from the end of my garden. I'm not sure though what happened to "red sky at night, shepherds' delight", as it's overcast and raining here this morning.

My worker is clearing out the garage, which seems to get things dumped there all the time, making it impossible to get any distance into it.  I always seem to want something which is the other side of the space, necessitating negotiating bikes, apple crushers, cat baskets, hay bags etc. etc. and rubbish sacks waiting to be taken to the déchetterie.  Here is a very dark view of one part.   Hopefully, before the end of the week the aim of the exercise can be achieved, to park my Peugeot in there during the winter weather.

Three things I like:

1.   Hearing the rain on the landing window when I am warm by the woodburner.
2.   Realising that the sanding in the garage has finally stopped and it is peaceful again.
3.   Visiting my favourite Breton neighbours - we are the same age and have the same sense of humour.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Power cuts and a walk round my village

When I lived in Cornwall, we used to have frequent mini moment power cuts.  For me, the worst ones were at night.  They took out my alarm clock and running a Bed and Breakfast I needed to be up early to get ready for breakfasts.  We also had longer cuts, which necessitated camping gas lamps being hung in the two halls so family and guests could find their way when the electric lights were not working.  I always worried about having candles in the guest bedrooms as you can’t control how other people are with safety. 

I remember calling the fire brigade to ask for a fire safety check on the property.  A lovely fireman came out and checked out my house and confirmed that everything was fine but that I hadn’t needed a check as I took no more than six guests at a time.  To me, that was completely mad as I can’t see the difference between two people being in residence or eight if the building is not fire safe.  We had potentially five family members in the house, not to mention the friends that my teenage children spontaneously brought back, and who I didn’t know about until I found them sleeping on the settees in the sitting room when I went up to do breakfast. 

Well, on Sunday night there was a mini moment cut here in Brittany, which means that my Sky box cuts out and I have to wait a couple of minutes for it to reset, such a nuisance if I’m recording a programme.   It’s just like being back in Cornwall.  We have lots of such power outages here, sometimes five or six in a day or even within a couple of hours.  I can never understand what causes these extremely short cuts in power.  I can understand a long cut of several hours, when something has clearly gone wrong with a cable and it takes a while to repair, but short and very frequent outages are beyond my comprehension.  Obviously in summer power cuts are not such a pain because it is light later, but for the winter I now have candles everywhere around the house, with an adjacent box of matches, for such occasions.  Although it’s annoying to lose the television, the laptop keeps going for a while on it’s fully charged batteries and I quite enjoy the candlelight.

I wandered out with my camera for half an hour this morning, just round the village.  The butterflies are really enjoying the warmth of these mid November days. Here are two Red Admirals, which were on my vine this morning, just basking in the sunshine.

The second butterfly really is not at her best with her very frayed-at-the-edges wings.

Gorse is already flowering and looks lovely in the sunshine.

My neighbour's horses were nuzzling around in the fallen Autumn leaves.  I accidentally touched the single electrified wire bordering their area as I was blundering about with the camera up to my eyes.  Luckily for me, the electricity was not on.  It was a good job that the horses didn't know that.

I always think I have a very, very good stock of logs for the woodburner, but just look at these piles!  I think that the Bretons compete to have the largest store, it's more interesting here to have a huge log store than an expensive car or a seriously smart house.  I think they're probably right.

Three things I like:

1.   The way that clicking my tongue makes the horses walk over for a stroke even though I'd forgotten the apples.

2.    Digital cameras and the special memory card (which my oldest son gave me) in my camera which downloads my photos automatically when I switch on the camera near my laptop. 

3.   Looking at Purrdy's tummy and finding that, at last, her sterilisation scar has healed.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Pumpkin, socks and cats

My third and fourth batches of butternut squash soup have been eaten.  I have this wonderful pumpkin, the only one this year that grew on my veggie patch, and I think that the next soup will be made with this. 

I shall do it in much the same way as the butternut soup, as I did last year when I managed to get more pumpkins to grow than just one!   I might even add carrots as I have a large bag, which I bought for the rabbits, but I'm sure they won't mind me stealing a few.

It was another sunny day today and I love the light as it comes through the east window and brightens the inside windowsill.


I had an urge to start knitting again and went on the hunt for a started project - socks - which I had abandoned.  I am a virgin sock knitter.  I finally found the bag with pattern in the studio but when I opened it up I felt I had made an error, so the first thing I had to do was unravel.  I hate unravelling and admitting to mistakes!

Well, I sat and read the pattern and am now racing - well comparatively - down the foot section to the toe.  I'd forgotten how awkward it is to knit with four needles.  One always seems to be poking into my wrist or palm, but I'm determined not to give up this time.  I have been reading loads of other people's blogs and so many seem to knit their own socks in the most incredible patterns.  I shall be very pleased if they fit me and even if I only use them in the house - it's a long and complicated task.  I can't knit in the summer months, my hands get too hot.  It's definitely a winter job for me.

Alfie and Purrdy have found the warmest spot in the house, where the heat rises up the stairs.

Alfie is on stair six and Purrdy on stair seven.  When Alfie and I lived in Cornwall, we had a spiral staircase from the sitting room to a Minstrels bedroom and Alfie always slept on stair seven as our woodburner used to heat the room beautifully there too.  I can't find a

photograph with him on the spiral staircase although I'm sure I must have one somewhere as he seemed to be there always.

Apart from knitting, another winter thing I do is to go through all the magazines I have bought during the year and try to make several piles to pass on.  I didn't do this last year and have a large pine box full of magazines, plus three piles on the sitting room floor and these sitting on another pine box.


In my ideal world I would never have to discard any reading matter.  I am an inveterate hoarder and find it very difficult to get rid of anything I think I might have reason to look at in the future.  

Three things I like:

1.   Slipping in between newly laundered sheets.
2.   Knowing I still have several packets of cheddar cheese in the refrigerator.
3.   Reaching into the nesting box and bringing out newly laid eggs.  

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Remembrance Sunday and Apple Compôte

I watched on television, the service at the Cenotaph this morning, I am reminded that I am always moved to tears. It looked cold but bright and sunny. In 1976, I was living in London and my then husband and I attended the service. It was a bitterly cold day, but not wet, and we were well wrapped up. It was extraordinary to be there and to experience first hand the two minute silence with so many others. It is amazing how hundreds and hundreds of people can be silent together. The service is long for the Queen and especially for Prince Philip, now he is 90, to be standing throughout. I love the BBC's handing of it all, the little interviews with proud, bereaved parents and with the surviving victims of war. If only we could have world peace.

My Breton neighbours brought round a paper carrier bag of apples from their own trees.  This morning I sat and peeled and cored some while listening to The Archers, my Sunday morning habit, and then popped them into a pan with some sugar, a soupçon of water, three whole cloves and a little ground cinnamon. 

This is going into the fridge, but I may freeze it if I decide to make some more tomorrow. It should be good with the Christmas boiled collar bacon or gammon joint.  I find I can’t sit very long and work with my hands above the table, as in peeling apples, it really seems to make my back hurt between my shoulder blades.  I am particularly aware of this at Christmas time when there seems to be so much preparation of food.  By Christmas lunch I can barely sit up straight!

There are still butterflies flying around outside.  Whenever I see them I don’t have the camera and then when I fetch it they have all flown off.  It just shows how mild it still is, and it’s a lovely sunny day today too.  I can hear the hounds of La Chasse, the hunt, baying a few fields away.  I do hope the cats don't go out while they're around, the hunters tend to shoot anything that moves.

I telephoned my worker to see how he and his daughter were after the wasp stings and they are both fine.  It could all have been so different.  They seem to have been very lucky considering how many stings they had. 

I have checked out the large wasplike pest from yesterday and it turns out to be a hornet.  I took another photograph this morning as it seems to have taken up residence around the vine.

It was a full moon last Thursday and even last night there was so much light coming through the windows – I don’t have blinds or curtains by choice – that I could get up in the night without putting on the lights.  I love being able to see the stars on less moonlit nights, which is why I don’t have window coverings.  I think visitors must think it’s odd, but I had none at my last house in Cornwall except for other people’s bedrooms.  My oldest son used to put a painting, just the same size as the window, in front of the window of my spare room, when he was staying here, to block out the light, he likes to have a really dark bedroom for sleeping.  It’s still in the room for visiting friends if they want to use it.  I find dressing windows here in France difficult particularly as windows open inwards and not outwards as in England, so it’s good not to have to think about it.

Three things I like:

1.   The smell of the apple compôte cooking with cinnamon and cloves.
2.   Alfie, my black and white cat, sleeping in a pool of sunlight on the rug.
3.   Yesterday evening's prawn tempura dipped in Hellman's mayonnaise - mmm!