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Archive for the ‘books’ Category

OK then, the garden is put to bed for the winter, Eddie is home and doing well, the Christmas present shopping is all done, I have spoken to a local newspaper giving them an update on Eddie, I have been in conversation with the British Aviation Authority about my recent experiences with airport security, have celebrated our son’s birthday and I have booked a few days away at the beginning of December to go to Gloucester to see the Cathedral.  Every year I try to visit a different British Cathedral for the first Sunday in Advent.  I am not religious but love the tradition of Cathedrals and Cathedral Choirs so Gloucester is where I am going this year and hoping to connect with a treasured and old friend at the same time.

And I have been working hard on my Chinese travel diary.  But before I begin to post again about that I had a day out today which you might enjoy sharing with me: here in Sheffield we have a society called the Dickens Fellowship which is part of the world wide Dickens Fellowship.  I have loved his books since I was a child and our mother used to read us A Christmas Carol every Christmas Eve in front of our ancient inglenook fireplace by candle- and fire-light and therefore I am a member of this Fellowship.  And today was our annual day out.

This year we are visiting a local aristocratic country house/Stately Home,  Chatsworth House (a huge and famous one notably once the home of Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire and used as the model for Pemberley in Pride and Prejudice) which has been decorated with a Dickens theme.

It was a warm, still day with a blue sky and we began in the old Stable yard

 

where the coaches and many horses used to live: this is now a place to sit outside and drink a coffee, or as today, a hot chocolate, visit the restaurant and the shop in the old stables.

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I especially love the fact that the lavatories are modelled on the old stables!!

 

 

Suitably comforted we made our way down to the Dickens decorations: the tickets were timed so that the crowds were not too  vast.

The main theme of course was, words.  Throughout his novels Dickens wrote over 4.6 million words and invented hundreds of words and phrases that have passed into everyday usage – butterfingers, slowcoach, devil-may-care, sassigassity, trumpery etc.

 

 

Decorations made from the printed word and  whole books themselves, were everywhere.

 

A Christmas Tree made of books:

 

 

There were attendants in costume of the time, and several Pearly Queens, reminiscent of the London which Dickens knew so well, and whose streets he walked for miles each night.

 

Vignettes from various books lined the corridor to the Chapel:

Tiny Tim’s Turkey,

 The window of t he Old Curiosity Shop,

There was the front door of Scrooge and Marley,

and Bill Sykes’s dog ‘Bullseye’ seemed to have got everywhere:

 

The Chapel was decorated lavishly

where the Ghost of Christmas Present was the theme: a reminder to Scrooge that those who surround themselves with friends, family, love and happiness are the richest of all.

The cloth under this throne was actually a beautiful red, not the rather shocking pink that my camera seems to have picked up!!

I thought the Chapel was cleverly lit, very understated and atmospheric:

The Anteroom to the Chapel was the interior of the Old Curiosity Shop, a modern take on curios – rare, unusual or intriguing objects – which although clever did not really impress me much.

From there we moved into a story of love and sacrifice, A Tale of Two Cities: a masterpiece of paper art in tribute to paper and the written word.

Which continued in stars, snowflakes and paperchains:

 

 

And found its apotheosis in houses built out of the very books in which they appear:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We then moved into the Painted Hall

 

which had the theme of Dickens’ experience of walking in London and writing about all the characters he met on his night time travels.  A sound track of the Dawn Chorus was playing and a rather odd representation of Dickens was shown, musing upon his encounters:

Climbing the stairs,

we came to a small hall in which were Christmas trees for one to write a wish or message on a label, to attach to the tree.  These were situated beside a rather touching sculpture of sleeping cherubs:

 

and a bird’s eye view of the Hall below past an ancient baby carriage;

We then ascended a glorious staircase,

top be met by a very sinister scene at the very top:

It was Bill Sykes who warned me to watch my purse and that Fagin would have my scarf instantly if I was not careful: and then we walked into Fagin’s Den which I thought was wonderful.

Handkerchiefs adorned everything, some drying before the fire, others on the boys’ bunk beds.  Fagin himself was performing tricks with handkerchiefs in front of amazed children:

Who would have the imagination to form a Christmas tree out of bunk beds, straw and handkerchief bunting?

 

There was a wall showing video of Dickens’ London with smoke pouring from chimneys and snow falling over the roof tops, all in all a superb room.

On next to cabinets of memorabilia: Dickens knew the 6th Duke of Devonshire and stayed at the house and put on plays there, but was not a familiar ‘friend’ as such.  However, there were playbills, letters from Dickens, the Duke’s personal copy of Martin Chuzzlewit and other objects of interest such as his signature in the Guest Book :

I love these paper chains: a friend of mine said that her daughter found an old copy of A Christmas Carol which was falling to pieces, so she took the pages and made them into paper chains to give to her mother for Christmas.  Lovely, although I do not like the idea of ever destroying the written word!

We passed on into Scrooge’s bedroom, which had boxes of cash stored by the bed, a bath ready before the fire, and a figure of himself sitting in bed, shaking and shivering with fear

at a mirror in the corner of the room on which a ghostly presence came and went.

Passing through a hall at the top of some stairs we found a wall of oil portraits with moving spirits gliding across them, rather like in Harry Potter.

Then we saw the House Library decorated for Christmas and I would LOVE a library like this: it is so inviting and cosy.

Down a flight of stairs to be met by a bower of Cherry Blossom, some boots and other lucky Wedding paraphernalia and a poignant carving on a tree trunk:

 

 

It was very clear where we were going next, into Great Expectations.  And indeed, there was the defunct Wedding Breakfast

and poor Miss Haversham greeting us all and asking plaintively whether we were happily married.

Leaving her to her querulous questioning of other ‘guests’ we passed under a magnificent gold stags’ head chandelier in celebratory decoration:

and into the Statuary Gallery which was lit a strange blue colour, with yet another magnificent, albeit rather heavy, Eagle chandelier,

 

with the final message from Dickens:

And so to the ubiquitous Gift Shop where I found a sweet little star made from manuscript paper, and some gorgeous leather handbags, which were quite out of my price range, with appliqued book spines on them.Image result for yoshi bookworm bag

It took nearly two hours to go round and examine everything in detail and I felt it was worth the admission fee.  Next week it will cost much more and the crowds will be huge because the Christmas Fair will be in the grounds then too.  Today was quiet and peaceful and unhurried: a delightful way to spend our yearly outing, but actually quite tiring.

So, we felt we needed a quick bite to eat, a drink, and home.

Where actually, I fell into bed and slept for the rest of the day.  Mind you, I had been up since 4.45 a.m. settling in a new goldfinch, about more another time.  Perhaps!

I hope you enjoyed this tour with us.

 

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Let’s get one thing clear from the start.

I am an adventurous, free-spirit who travels light on this Earth and can pick up a rucksack at the drop of a hat and set off to explore pastures new.

At least, that is who I was when I was born and who I remain inside.

However, accidents and misfortunes have rendered my poor old frame injured, surgically altered, immune constrained, chemically sensitive with food allergies, and recently diagnosed with cancer.

So, that poses a teensy problem when travelling to somewhere like China.

It took me seven months to make the necessary preparations which was frustrating in the extreme, but proved wise in the event.

If you are interested I explain here what is recommended and what precautions I took: if you are not interested, please just skip:)

Now a lot of advice is geared towards people who are independent travellers and/or who are up-country: for my own safety and for the security of an established umbrella organisation I had decided that I needed to be sensible and go with a well-known travel company.  This I did and although it meant that the trip was rather too organised and over-sanitized for my liking, and most of the other people, although very pleasant were not my type, it was a good choice and also meant that our visits to many sites were stream lined, trouble- and queue-free.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the following vaccinations for travellers to China:

Adult diphtheria and tetanus (ADT) : Hepatitis A : Hepatitis BMeasles, mumps and rubella (MMR):  TyphoidVaricella If you haven’t had chickenpox.

The following immunisations are recommended for travellers spending more than one month in the country or those at special risk:

Influenza : Japanese B encephalitis : Pneumonia: Rabies : Tuberculosis 

In China there are day flying mosquitoes and night time flying mosquitoes: both carry diseases. – Dengue Fever and Japanese Encephalitis.

First of all my doctor was adamant that I should have most of these immunisations:   as I have severe chemical allergies to 40% of modern pharmaceutical drugs this necessitated arranging a session in hospital while I was ‘challenged’ with minute amounts to see whether my system could cope with them.  This took months to arrange, and when it did take place I collapsed, so no immunisations for me.

Although water quality in many of China’s major cities is now much safer, the delivery system is not, so non-Chinese are not advised to drink the water, although washing and brushing one’s teeth is OK.  However, since I need to change surgical dressings on a regular basis my doctor wished me to use only bottled water both for drinking, teeth brushing and wound cleansing: after washing my hands I was also to use hand sanitizer and follow the recommendation to wear long-sleeved tops, trousers, and socks to avoid mosquito bites.  Also to use mosquito nets and apply insect repellents.

Now I am fairly sensible so I chose dates for this holiday that fell as nearly as possible into times when mosquitoes would be least abundant.  However, since we are visiting both warm southerly places as well as chiller northern ones this was slightly problematic.  Being on a river for six days in warm areas was also thought provoking!  Unfortunately, I cannot be around most sanitizers without collapsing and the same effect happens with anti-mosquito preparations.  So I had to spend some time trying to track down things that I could take that would not affect me. The Cruise ship sprayed the cabins each day but I had to ask them not to do this in my cabin and also asked them if it would be possible for them to provide a mosquito net.  Look for the photo of my cabin later in this diary to see how they responded to this request.

Finally, I found anti-bacterial wipes that I could tolerate and took long, light-coloured, loose cotton clothing to help prevent disease-carrying insect bites (none of which I have in my wardrobe living in the north of England, of course!!).  My holiday was to be constant hand washing followed by hand wipes, and brushing my teeth in bottled water.  Also, no salads, peeled fruit, or cold dishes: in some parts of China human waste is still a standard agricultural fertiliser!  If I get any kind of stomach upset it can be extremely serious within a few hours leading to extreme dehydration and collapse.

So far, so good. Although my doctor was not overjoyed at the prospect of this trip, or me going unprotected.

Lonely Planet Medical Checklist

Recommended items for a personal medical kit:

  • Antibacterial cream, eg mucipirocin
  • Antibiotics for diarrhoea, including norfloxacin, ciprofloxacin or azithromycin for bacterial diarrhoea; or tinidazole for giardia or amoebic dysentery
  • Antibiotics for skin infections, eg amoxicillin/clavulanate or cephalexin
  • Antifungal cream, eg clotrimazole
  • Antihistamine, eg cetrizine for daytime and promethazine for night-time
  • Anti-inflammatory, eg ibuprofen
  • Antiseptic, eg Betadine
  • Antispasmodic for stomach cramps, eg Buscopan
  • Decongestant, eg pseudoephedrine
  • Diamox if going to high altitudes
  • Elastoplasts, bandages, gauze, thermometer (but not mercury), sterile needles and syringes, safety pins and tweezers
  • Indigestion tablets, such as Quick-Eze or Mylanta
  • Insect repellent containing DEET
  • Iodine tablets to purify water (unless you’re pregnant or have a thyroid problem)
  • Laxative, eg coloxyl
  • Oral-rehydration solution (eg Gastrolyte) for diarrhoea, diarrhoea ‘stopper’ (eg loperamide) and antinausea medication (eg prochlorperazine)
  • Paracetamol
  • Permethrin to impregnate clothing and mosquito nets
  • Steroid cream for rashes, eg 1% to 2% hydrocortisone
  • Sunscreen
  • Thrush (vaginal yeast infection) treatment, eg clotrimazole pessaries or Diflucan tablet
  • Urinary infection treatment, eg Ural

I did not take all of this but I did take the few items I knew that were safe for me and also covered most common conditions: clove oil, T-tree oil, homeopathic kit, soluble ibruprofen, dioralyte, codeine phosphate, buccastem, anti allergy tape, cough tablets, and my regular prescription items.

Tips for Packing

  • Pack medications in their original, clearly labelled containers.
  • If you take any regular medication, bring double your needs in case of loss or theft.
  • Take a signed and dated letter from your physician describing your medical conditions and medications (using generic names).
  • If carrying syringes or needles, ensure you have a physician’s letter documenting their medical necessity.If you have a heart condition, bring a copy of your ECG taken just prior to travelling.
  • Get your teeth checked before you travel.
  • If you wear glasses, take a spare pair and your prescription.

In China you can buy some medications over the counter without a doctor’s prescription, but not all, and in general it is not advisable to buy medications locally without a doctor’s advice. Fake medications and poorly stored or out-of-date drugs are also common, so try to bring your own.

So, I heeded this advice, followed it, and for good measure had my prescriptions printed out, dated and signed by both my Doctor and Pharmacist: I was anticipating problems with Chinese officials: as it turned out this did not happen, it was the English officials who behaved like little Hitlers.  (More on this next time.)

I also discovered that the flights to and from the UK to China were fumigated with an insect killer which I could not tolerate.  It took all seven months to track down a face mask and filter combination that I could wear on the plane for 40 minutes while this took place.  The company also recommended that I took charcoal masks to cope with the common problem of air pollution in many Chinese cities, and other chemical events that I might encounter.  Very helpful of them.

It was suggested that I should contact the airline for two reasons: one to ask for oxygen to be available in case of some kind of chemical exposure during the flight (oxygen is the only thing which brings me round) and secondly to explain my need for medical equipment because in that case my luggage would not be weight limited.  Given the weight of the mask and filter alone this was a tremendous help.  Apparently only one passenger per flight is allowed oxygen.  I was on four flights with British Airways: Manchester to London, London to Shanghai, Beijing to London, London to Manchester. (I could not manage to discover how to make this arrangement with the three different Chinese Airlines we also flew on.)  Gods be praised, but no other passengers on my flights had asked for this concession, so after several doctor’s letters and filling in loads of forms, my medical allowance was given the go-ahead and my oxygen request accepted by BA.

Are you bored yet? I was.  Bored and fed up and frustrated  Image result for frustration   and getting more depressed by the day as the complications of my medical situation were brought home to me.  Of course we were preparing for all the worst possible scenarios which is highly unlikely, but in the circumstances the doctors thought it necessary.

Then I got the diagnosis of cancer and my surgeon wanted to operate in July/August: I refused as the operation will make me immobile for at least three months.  Not until after China I determined.  But it was more pressure. Oh yes, and now I have very little hair.  For some reason it has been falling out at a rate of knots, either from the shock of the cancer diagnosis or the various interventions I have tried.  Very good for morale.

As a little extra soupçon a few years ago I badly re-injured a knee joint: exercise, diet and pilates have transformed the joint but it is still ‘iffy’ so that meant taking two hiking poles and a knee-brace to use on the Great Wall at least.

Did I mention that I like to travel light?         Image result for travelling light

Because of surgery I do not absorb or metabolize nutrients well, so that necessitated taking supplements that I needed.  Also the few usual drugs that I can tolerate in case they are not available where I would be – all of which have to be prescription items for me.  It was brought home to me that since some of these contain codeine the Chinese Customs might not be happy: so that entailed getting print-outs of all my prescription items, listed, dated, and signed by my dispensing Chemist and Doctor.

I was told that I MUST carry all my medical items in my hand luggage so that I could not be parted from them. Because of lots of major surgery in the past I have to wear an appliance.  That is normally no problem.  But with skin allergies there are only certain types of appliance that I can tolerate: these are not available in China.  So I had to take everything I might possibly need for the whole stay, plus extra in case of emergencies.  This involved pastes and powders.  And, you guessed it, no Security in any Airport lets you go through with large amounts of pastes, liquids and foreign looking powders.  More paperwork, this time to present to Security: this paperwork was approved, dated and signed by British Airways Medical department and also the relevant NHS departments.

You may have noticed that so far there has been no mention of guide books, normal day clothes, diaries, pens, sun hats, underwear,  – the usual things people consider when packing.  Not relevant so far.

Since I cannot eat gluten or dairy products, I had had translated and printed off, a sheet that I could give to restaurants, cafes and chefs: I also took some gluten-free crackers and a few other dried emergency items – just in case.  All triple wrapped in case of sniffer dogs at Chinese customs.  Oh yes, and a bar of 90% dark chocolate for when everything just got too much!!           Image result for emergency chocolate

By now you would imagine that all possible eventualities had been researched, discussed, and dealt with.

Oh no.

One week before I was due to set off I felt that I had crossed every T and dotted every i.  I had printed paperwork for everything I had organised, plus translations into Chinese, and had laminated some of these as well.  Then my normal monthly appliance prescription was returned  – late- with some of the most essential items missing and no explanation.  I spent three days trying to find out if anyone else had the items or knew what the problem was.  I was told eventually that the manufacturer had, with no notice and no explanation, stopped making the items and would not make them again until November.  You can perhaps imagine my feelings at this point?  I was also told that the local hospital pharmacies would not dispense them for me even with my prescription because it was a family doctor prescription not a hospital prescription, even though the surgery had obviously taken place at the hospital.

If anyone ever felt that the fates were against this journey, that was me at that moment.

But I also felt that I had worked damn hard for this trip, at the same time as negotiating other family problems, and pet crises, and that come hell or high  water I was going.

Finally, nearly crying with frustration,   Image result for frustration     I found an online dispenser who listened to my plea, knew about the manufacturer’s situation, and cut through all the red tape by suggesting that she send me the next generation appliance which would be following on from the one I was already using.  It was not yet available on prescription so I could not send her that, but like an angel, she said not to worry, she would send them to me and write them off as sales samples.  She had them despatched by courier and they arrived the day before I was due to leave.  I would have hugged and kissed her if I could.Image result for kind angel

 

When I was young I knew that I had cousins in Peking (as it was then) who were half Swedish and half Chinese: it seemed very exotic and I always wanted to know about their lives.  Their escape from the Red Guard was legendary in the family.

People from Burma lived in our house when I was very small and I loved it when they were on baby-sitting duties: the stories they told and the clothes they wore were different, prettier, so much lovelier than my day-to-day normality.  Sitting on their knee was to be in heaven: the ladies were loving, dark, petite, fine-boned, smelled gorgeous and wore silky and satiny clothes.  So different from my tall, bony, blond Scandinavian relatives.

One of my favourite stories was a book they gave me called Dabbitse (by Chiang Yee, see note below) about a little boy whose father was called Obstinate Ho.  The boy spent each day with his beloved Water Buffalo Dabbitse.  One day Dabbitse gets into the garden of a rich house and eats the Lotus flowers in the pond much to the distress of the owner’s daughter!!!  The illustrations are wonderful, several in delicate water colour and more in traditional Chinese ink.  It was a book which opened up magical vistas to me.

So although I knew a little about Asia I had never been.  I have also mentioned elsewhere that I have always wanted to stand on the Great Wall of China and when I was first diagnosed with this cancer my first thought was that I will not die without having stood on the Great Wall.

Therefore, I was going.  And if I fell off the Great Wall or some other dire event befell me, then so be it.  Better to try and fail, than not try.

But after all these months of preparation I was emotionally frazzled and exhausted.  And, I am ashamed to admit, although not often given to self-pity, I did ruminate darkly from time to time when I heard other’s complaints about the amount of work necessary  for them to go on holiday;)

So, finally, after all these months, D-Day dawned, and miraculously, I was ready.

Related image

 

 

P.S.  I do not own any copyright to any of the images in this post.

P.P.S.  Chinese artist and writer Chiang Yee (1903-1977) came to Britain in 1933, where he lived and worked until 1955. During this time he wrote a successful series of illustrated travelogues using the pen name ‘Yaxingzhe’ or ‘Silent Traveller’. The books describe Chiang Yee’s life in London and Oxford during the turbulent years of the Second World War and record his travels to the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales, Edinburgh and Dublin.  Illustrated throughout, with his own unique ink and watercolour paintings, sketches and poems, they represent a significant artistic, as well as literary project.Notably among the first Chinese writers to write books in English in the first half of the 20th century, Chiang enjoyed a prolific publishing career in Britain, in which he also published two seminal texts on Chinese painting and calligraphy, memoirs of his childhood in China, and several children’s books including ‘Dabbitse’.

 

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It seems to be a pattern this year, just as I am embarking on blogging about a trip away, life intervenes and the posts stop before they really get started.

Oh well, I hope that my Scotland trip will still appear here, but for now my seasonal offering this year is a tradition from Iceland I have just heard about from litlovers facebook page:

The “Jólabókaflóð” – literally, the Christmas Book Flood.  Apparently Icelanders love books perhaps more than any other nation in the world, and every Christmas everyone will find at least one book under their Christmas tree.

 

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Bells ring out at 6.0 pm on Christmas eve and then Icelanders sit down to a formal meal:  many  listen to the service on the radio even if their families aren’t religious, just because this is the beginning of the Christmas celebrations.  Once the meal is over and cleaned up, the gift distribution (or book distribution) begins. In fact, it’s a tradition in Iceland to open the books and spend all Christmas Eve reading and drinking hot chocolate, or better still, to climb into the freshly cleaned sheets of your bed, in your new pyjamas, with your new book plus some chocolate, and spending the night under the covers eating and reading:)

Its interesting that chocolate in some form seems to go hand in hand with reading:  clearly I am Icelandic:)

I hope you get some good books this Christmas!

 

https://helenafairfax.files.wordpress.com/2015/12/iceland-1.jpg?w=300&h=200

 

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You could not make this up!

Yesterday was a busy day here.

Work on the fence round the new veggie patch.

A trip to an Agricultural Merchant to buy fence posts, half posts, fencewire strainers, stock fencing and a sheep hurdle.

Some digging in said veggie patch and planting out the garlic since I assume the worst of the winter rain is now past.

It was hot and sunny and blissful to be working out of doors amongst burgeoning Nature.

As I removed the horticultural fleece from the Kale I joked that now it would snow.

And of course, it did, today.  But luckily it did not settle.

Whilst I was working in the warm soil and husband was stringing wire, we had a visit from someone we used to know many years ago and with whom we are not so much in touch nowadays.  A nice chap who went to the same Church that we frequented when we were Churchgoers.  As we have become backsliders and more agnostic he has remained loyal, faithful and very active in the Church even though he has changed denominations.

Half way through me planting the garlic he said to me,”Did you know that I am no longer preaching?”  I replied in the negative and asked why.  “Oh, they asked me to leave because of my hobby of writing erotic literature”

I did not see that one coming.  Luckily I was bending over looking at the earth so he could not see my face.

“But surely you write under a nom de plume?” I choked.

“Yes, but they found out anyway”.

“Well, that seems a little hard given they must believe that sex was invented by God”, I ventured.  “Of course, it might be different if it was considered pornographic.”

“Well, it is published on a rather extreme website,” he countered.

Silence from me for a moment.  I was having trouble with my breathing.  And anyway I needed to collect my thoughts.

“And you decided to choose to continue your writing rather than your preaching?”I queried, placidly planting more cloves.

“Oh, yes”.

Longer silence from me.  This from someone who had preached for over thirty years. Who had devoted his and his family’s life to supporting the local church. I was rather at a loss for words.

“Its very popular, I won a prize on the website last year and get thousands of hits”, he said.  “But of course it’s only e-publishing.”

“How’s the family?” I asked.

 

 

 

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OK back to the original order of events.

On the morning after L arrived, Friday, we went out as she needed to buy several things and wanted, like I had done, to re-acquaint herself with the area.

It was grey and overcast but dry.  As we walked the familiar streets L said, as I had felt, that it was so welcoming and familiar that she hardly felt she had been away.

I particularly like going through a small door in the corner of the Place des Vosges (if you did not know about the door you would never think of going through):

08.04.2015 034and being met with this:

08.04.2015 035the grounds of the Hotel de Sully, (Hotel was just a large house)

08.04.2015 037If you walk across the garden you find yourself outside one of my favourite bookshops which is situated in a room on one side of the passage leading straight through to a courtyard.  Its ceiling looks like this and it specialises in History:

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On and through the next courtyard and you are out onto the main shopping street of Saint Antoine.  The Hotel de Sully from the street (again, unless you knew you could go through, you would not think to enter):

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On the other side of the Place des Vosges, in the corner to the left of the tree in leaf, is Victor Hugo’s house, he of Les Miserables (NOT the musical!  Well, yes I suppose the Musical, at least the basic story), an author I really enjoy.  I always feel he was the Dickens of France.  The house is open to visitors for a small fee and well worth the visit.

more richard and paris 104

In between the little door leading into the garden of the Hotel de Sully and Victor Hugo’s house, is an archway leading to a side street:

08.04.2015 039with greengrocers, wine shops and bistros, as well as the obligatory shops for buying nick-knacks to take home.

We were expecting a friend, M, who is also L’s daughter-in-law,  to come and stay with us in the afternoon so L was anxious to buy some nibbles, and especially some good wine, to greet her.  M is Dutch, and was travelling down from the Netherlands to Paris this morning and decided to attend to a Hot Yoga Session run by a friend of hers since she was in Paris, before coming on to us.  M has been into Hot Yoga for four years now, but personally I don’t see the attraction!

After she arrived, all pink and fresh from her exercise and shower, we offered refreshment and sat and chatted all afternoon.  L managed her jetlag really wonderfully well, by taking a sleeping pill the night before and not allowing herself any sleep during the new day.  I did wonder if we were going to lose her at about three in the afternoon when she looked as if she might just fall asleep at the table, but she pushed through.

L had made a booking for the evening at a Bistro we used to love in our street, so we finally wandered down there at about 7.15 p.m.  Two doors down on the opposite side of the street from our flat is a Synagogue.  Nothing remarkable in that and we never gave it a second thought.  But tonight as we walked down to the Bistro we were met by the sight of six fully armed soldiers, with sub machine guns at the ready, on guard.  It was a shocking and sobering sight.

I never thought to see such a thing.

Our meal was OK but not wonderful and the dessert which L had been looking forward to, which I had had last time, was different.  On  that previous occasion, some years ago now, I had had an apple, baked and served hot in puff pastry with a glass of iced calvedos on the side.  It had been sublime.  This time a baked apple in filo pastry which was raw on the bottom appeared, but admittedly with the iced calvedos. L sent it back.  It appeared that the management had changed:  our first course of lamb with sweet potato was really shepherds pie with sweet potato mash.  Nothing to write home about and not as good as home made.  I was luckier with my dessert which was a dark chocolate shell containing mixed red berries.

But we had a lovely evening of chat and catching up with family news.

Walking back home last thing, the soldiers were still  there.  A shocking reflection of recent events.

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Charlie Ebdo

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I’ve recently been reading two long posts from Recollections of a Vagabonde at:   http://avagabonde.blogspot.co.uk    in the aftermath of the Charlie Ebdo tragedy.  I felt I really must point you over in her direction because her thoughtful and learned posts are really worthy of wide distribution, in my opinion: I suspect some of you read her blog anyway, but for those of you who do not, please go over and read:)  They are most enlightening.

 

P.S. Clip art in this post is from a site which WordPress assures me is copyright free, at : https://openclipart.org

 

 

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Just before Christmas I, husband and one grand-daughter went down to Warner Bros. at Watford to visit the studios where the Harry Potter films were made.

In fact, the visit was to redeem tickets which were last year’s Christmas presents.

We had a wonderful time, and I hope to post about it shortly, but we also bought a few souvenirs in the shop at the end.  Amongst which a chocolate wand, which mysteriously ended up in my stocking, a chocolate frog, which equally strangely ended up in husband’s stocking and a box of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, which I decided to take along  as a fun ending to Christmas Dinner.

The day began well with everyone in festive spirit:

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although rather sleep deprived

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with six of us sitting down to a traditionally groaning board

 

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followed by Christmas Pudding, Brandy Butter, Chocolate Log and cream, musical crackers, and then, the BBEFBs.

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These were available, in the first film, on the express train to Hogwart’s, for sale from the refreshment trolly which came round.

Ron Weasley says to Harry,”You want to be careful with those.  When they say ‘Every Flavour’ they mean every flavour!”

The choices apparently on offer were: Banana, Black Pepper, Blueberry, Bogey, Candyfloss, Cherry, Cinnamon, Dirt, Earthworm,  Earwax, Grass, Green (Sour) Apple, Lemon,  Marshmallow,  Rotten Egg, Sausage, Soap, Tutti Frutti, Watermelon, and lastly, Vomit.

20130213_175823.jpg flavour guide

 Now, being a dyed-in-the-wool cynic, I expected the manufacturers and salespeople to have ‘sanitised’ these flavours to make them acceptable to a wide audience.

I was wrong.

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 We appeared to have got very few of the nice ones and nearly all the horrible flavours, and they were, really, really, horrid.

But, oh, such FUN!!!

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