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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!

 

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We had some family over for tea today: so out came the best china, silver and tablecloths from previous generations.

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Its only Christmas and Easter that these things see the light of day but it seems a shame.

Sunday tea used to be an Institution.  It is rare that I make egg mayonnaise sandwiches with the crusts cut off.

Perhaps we should bring the custom back once a month or every six weeks or so.

I hope you all enjoyed the Bank Holiday:)

PS The dogs loved the crusts!!

 

 

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I have taken so many medications over the last few days that this morning I feel as if I have been run over by a truck and hit hard in the head! The good news is that they work.  Also, that their effect has been to give me a sleep lasting ten hours: so this morning I woke feeling refreshed, non-achey and as if the worst is over.

I needed a really slow start to the day so L. went out for a long, fast walk to discover some of the old lanes round the back of the Bastille that used to contain wood working shops.  The wood was brought down the Seine and easily transported the few metres to these shops.  Unfortunately for us tourists the little workshops have all gone, to be replaced by more up market boutiquey shops.

By the time she returned she was famished: after a slow start for me and very little breakfast I was more than happy to accompany her!  We had decided on a Bistro we have been to on previous visits down in the St. Paul district. We knew that B, L’s husband, had very fond memories of this bistro and would be pleased that we had revisited it.  On the walls were photographs of Marilyn Monroe, Gary Cooper, Ingrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart, Spencer Tracy, and other film people I did not recognise, perhaps producers/directors: all people who had eaten here in the past! Knowing how full it used to get we arrived there bang on 12.00 noon and already one table was occupied.  It is run by an Italian family but the menu is not what I would expect Italian food to be back in the UK.  Very little pastry or pasta so plenty of choice for me.

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more richard and paris 071L chose a tomato, aubergine and pancetta ham starter and a pasta and calamari dish for her main,  followed by a panacotta mould with a sweet orange sauce.  L loved her starter and dessert but found the pasta to be too al dente for her liking although the calamari and its sauce were lovely so she filled up on the bread as she loves French bread anyway.

I missed out the starter, and went for rabbit with a ratatouille sauce.which had olives and raisins in it, followed by a confit of aubergines with orange zest and frozen ricotta. The dessert sounded so strange and not at all nice, but I always feel that when abroad one should take every chance to experiment (providing one is hurting neither man nor beast) and it was a revelation.  Aubergines had been slow cooked in a syrup with candied orange peel and served in layers inbetween which were curls of very dark, very bitter, pieces of chocolate. The ricotta also had pieces of the bitter chocolate in it and had been frozen.  The depth and mix of flavour was intense.  I had to leave some because they had been overgenerous with the portion. This is what it looked like:

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and it was out of this world!!!!!!!!!!!   The whole, taken together, gave explosions of flavour which were amazing.  I was so glad I had taken the chance and ordered it.

We ate slowly, savouring everything, as the restaurant filled up to overflowing, and the wine and the talk increased.  It was interesting to hear French spoken with a very obvious Italian accent by both the ‘patrons’ and some of the customers! After a really lovely meal, we both left feeling very well-nourished and walked gently round the St. Paul area after which we walked to the nearest SCNF office to buy our rail tickets for our two outings next week.  We are not sure how the rush hour will affect our timings on  those days and thought that at least we could avoid having to queue for tickets. They didn’t speak English and were kind enough to say that my French was good, which it isn’t, but I suppose it sufficed for the interaction!  With all tickets safely bought we split up, with L going on to further exploration and me needing to go home to rest up again.  So a liesurely walk home doing some shopping on the way for the holiday weekend: as well as groceries, I bought some flowering branches and some decorations I found reduced to make my Easter branch to add a holiday flavour to the flat. But at least I managed to get out for a bit and think I am on the mend.

In the early evening I rose from my bed again and we regrouped over a cup of tea and decided that the rain was just too fierce to wander forth again instantly, so it was some hours later, after a light supper, when it had cleared up a bit that we went for a saunter  to buy L a special ice cream:)

On our way out we passed people going into the Synagogue with lots of food for a Passover meal, and as always, armed soldiers on guard.  I am sure we passed two plain clothes policemen outside too, because they stopped talking as soon as anyone walked past them.

I went round taking photographs of the chocolate in some of the specialist shops.  During Easter, the confiseries and chocolatieres, are filled with beautiful and delicious chocolates. More often than not, these chocolates look more like exquisite works of art than mere sweets and certainly put our cardboard-boxed, foil-wrapped Easter Eggs to shame.  So for the rest of this post, revel in a chocolatey extravaganza: by the way everything is made of chocolate and is edible!

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Much like peering at a masterpiece, many a Parisian, and I, can be found staring into the windows at the chocolate.

Richard II and Paris 039.jpg 1 The pieces are quite extraordinary and very expensive but they are works of art, even if they did not all appeal.  Richard II and Paris 038

Many French Easter traditions revolve around chocolate, chickens, rabbits,  fish and church bells.  Of course a lot of countries celebrate Easter with chocolate in some form and often with chickens and rabbits, but I think it is unique to France to celebrate also with fish and bells.

I have already mentioned the tradition of the April Poisson: when mischievous French children stick paper fish on to the backs of as many unsuspecting adults as possible, then run away yelling “Poisson d’Avril!” The custom is for the tagged adults to respond by giving kids gifts of chocolate fish.   Swarms, or should it be shoals, of chocolate fish fill shop windows all over the City of Light. They come in varied sizes, some packed in shiny tin boxes holding small schools of fish all wrapped up in foil.

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They are also sold unwrapped, by weight, with the larger sizes often molded to resemble either a pike or a carp.

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So, whilst there is no direct correlation between chocolate fish and Easter, since they usually begin appearing in the shops just in time for April Fool’s Day, and you will often find them still in stores around Easter time because of its close proximity to the holiday,  fish have become an Easter tradition also.

Le Notre had as its theme this year a Treasure Island, so alongside the fish, there were parrots, pirates, treasure, pearls, etc.

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Alongside these intricately decorated pieces, one can also find chocolate bells.paris 2015 easter 018.jpg 1 These “flying” bells directly correlate to the resurrection of Jesus, and with the end of Lent

What about the bells? Cloche volants or ‘Flying Bells’ are another important symbol in the French Easter tradition. Much of the country (about ninety percent) considers itself Roman-Catholic in culture whether they are truly practicing Roman Catholics or not.  Churches, with their soaring architecture and revered history, are an intrinsic part of this culture and you hear the bells ringing out several times each day to announce the times of the old monastic services.

On Maundy Thursday evening, just before Good Friday, all the bells in France become still and silent in remembrance of Jesus’ suffering and death. This is quite a sombre remembrance and a real change in the texture of daily life. Traditional belief holds that on Good Friday all the church bells in France miraculously ‘fly’ off to the Vatican carrying all the grief of those mourning Jesus’ crucifixion. To ease any disquiet or fears of children, parents tell them that all the church bells have flown off to Rome to visit the Pope.These flying French bells then return to their steeples on Easter morning just in time to ring for the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection and the children are told that the bells have flown home again. The bells also bring back chocolate and decorated eggs in time for children to collect when they wake up on Easter morning.   Hence, the appearance of chocolate bells at Easter time

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And last, but not least, I took this photo especially for Coco the Scottie Dog, from Walkies on Table Mountain – see my side bar of blogs I follow:)

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Happy Easter/Passover or Welcome to Spring, whatever your tradition.

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A photo of my Easter Branch which I always make at home and which L calls my fertility altar!

(Incidentally, when Karim the Agent called round later in the day to attend to some sudden lighting emergency, he as a Muslim, liked it so much that he immediately took some photos to put on the adverts for the flat, and he and his two cousins happily accepted and munched on chocolate eggs!!)

This morning we woke to the bluest of skies and a golden, shining world.

The city outside our flat, and in our apartment building was still and silent. At eight in the morning there was not a person or a car within sight or sound.  Peace and light.

We were not in a hurry, but neither could we hang around.  We wanted to be out of the flat by 10.00 am to make our way over to the 5th Arrondisement to the Rue Mouffetard and St. Medard’s Eglise for the 11.00 a.m. Service.  We had heard wonderful things about this Easter Service and the organ, as well as wanting to be amongst Parisians, or at least one group of them, celebrating Easter.   We did not want to be at some Tourist centre or alone in the flat.

All went well and we arrived just as the service before was finishing.

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Fairly soon the church was packed to bursting with more and more people coming in all the time.  And I sat eagerly anticipating the Led Zeppelin, roof-rousing organ performance we had read about.

Unfortunately, not this year.  The Service was dignified and included many baptisms and faces around us were smiling and friendly: following the Order of Service while the French was read was excellent for recognising phrasing patterns and checking on pronunciation and although I got the gist of  the sermon L did not.  After three quarters of an hour her back was aching and she needed to move about so she left: I joined her fifteen minutes later and found her sitting on the pavement in the sunshine drinking coffee, just outside the Church.  Which is where I shot these little videos: so much goodwill and friendliness, and not put on for the tourists either.  We saw very few others apart from us.

Do watch these as they are full of the wonderful atmosphere we enjoyed this Easter.  Such an unexpected treat!!

When we finished our coffee we set out to explore this area which neither of us knew: and we fell in love with it.  It had a little of the feel of Montmartre but without any tourists.  A real community feel, with people buying meat and groceries for lunch, plus of course, cakes and chocolate.

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One little girl was literally jumping up and down in the queue with her parents waiting to go into this shop!

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And outside the Ironmonger’s they had put this on the pavement:

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We were back at the singing and dancing and finally had to drag ourselves away as we had a restaurant booking for lunch:

It brought tears to my eyes and I had one of my ‘moments’.  This was just the local French living life and celebrating, as came naturally. Do you notice the dad dancing with his small daughter? We were so privileged to be there:

as we turned to leave I noticed the building next to our cafe.

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To be continued.

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 Valentine’s Day
As if you did not know!

There is very little new I can add to what is in the general domain, but I found an interesting page on the BBC Religious Website –

http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/saints/valentine.shtml

Saint Valentine’s day is 14th February.

The celebrations of St. Valentine’s Day are steeped in legend and mystery; indeed the motives behind the day’s creation and even St. Valentine himself have been shrouded in controversy and doubt.

Saint Valentine’s Day embraces a time of year that is historically associated with love and fertility. It encompasses the sacred marriage of Zeus and Hera in Ancient Athens and the Ancient Roman festival of Lupercus, the god of fertility.

The priests of Lupercus would perform a traditional purification ritual, slaughtering goats to the god, and after consuming wine, they would run through the streets of Rome holding aloft the skins of the goats touching anyone they met. The occasion compelled floods of young women to the streets in the belief that being touched would improve their chances of conceiving and bring forth easy childbirth. There remains some speculation over the exact date of the celebration.

The first official Saint Valentine’s Day was declared on 14th of February by Pope Galasius in 496, in memory of a 3rd century martyred priest in Rome. It is not known for sure whether Pope Galasius was honouring this 3rd century priest or whether it was one of two other martyred priests associated with the 14th of February. One was Bishop of Interamna (modern Terni) and the other apparently suffered in Africa along with a number of companions. Nothing further is known about these two Saint Valentines and it is the priest in Rome that has become the most widely acclaimed of the three.

Roman coin showing Claudius II's head Claudius II ©

It is believed that the young priest rose to distinction after betraying Emperor Claudius in 270 AD by conducting illegitimate wedding ceremonies in the capital. Emperor Claudius claimed that married men made poor soldiers and consequently decreed that all marriages of younger citizens would be outlawed. Bishop Valentine, however, maintained that marriage was part of God’s plan and purpose for the world. He continued to conduct marriages in secret between young people, sometimes as young as twelve, in the name of love.

His success gained him unwelcome notoriety, which became Bishop Valentine’s downfall. He was jailed and ultimately beheaded, but not before he fell in love with the jailer’s daughter. It is thought that on the evening of his execution the bishop passed her a note which read “from your Valentine”. This story has blossomed into the defining tradition of Valentine’s Day. An estimated one billion cards sent each year, making it the second largest card-sending holiday of the year behind Christmas.

A typical Victorian Valentine’s Day card ©

Winged cherubs and a giant pink love heart hung with roses

Valentine’s Day has spawned celebrations of love beyond western culture. In Japan and Korea, Valentine’s has become almost an obligation for women to give chocolates, known as giri-choco, to all of their co-workers. A reciprocal day on 14th of March known as White Day has emerged in recent times whereby men are supposed to thank those who remembered them on Valentine’s Day with white chocolate or marshmallows, hence white day. In Korea there is an additional Black Day, held the following month on the 14th of April, for less fortunate men who did not receive gifts on Valentine’s Day to gather together to eat Jajangmyun, Chinese style black noodles topped with a black sauce.”

End of Article.

So, on February 14th in the East, it is the men who get the chocolate.  So very different to our romantic gestures here in the West.  ‘Giri-choco’ – meaning ‘courtesy chocolate’-  is given away by women to their male co-workers  as an obligatory gesture of kindness with no romantic interest implied.  However, contrary to giri-choco, ‘honmei-choco‘  – meaning ‘Chocolate of Love’ – is reserved for that special someone.

photo from www.drexeliuschocolates.com

This is usually a unique gift,  handmade or store bought,  and often accompanied by other gifts such as neck ties or wrist watches.

But why do women go to all this trouble and expense? They do it for one simple term, ‘sanbai gaeshi’ or ‘thrice the return’.  After receiving their gifts, men are expected to return the gesture with a gift 2 to 3 times more expensive.  Valentine’s Day is just the beginning of the Celebrations in the East; White Day is just around the corner, a month later!!

White Day originated in the late 1970’s and is said to have been instigated by the National Confectionery Industry Association in response to Valentine’s Day so that men could return the favor to the women who gave them gifts the month before.  Initially known as Marshmallow Day it later changed to its current name.

photo from www.asianfoodgrocer.com

As on Valentine’s Day, both giri-choco and honmei-choco gifts are given on White Day.

Of course this all benefits the consumer industry and a rather nice ironic touch has been developed in Korea by the instigation of a holiday on April 14th called “Black Day” as mentioned above.  ‘Black Day’ has quickly gained popularity, as it is an occasion for single people who did not receive gifts for Valentine’s or White Day to dress in dark colours, and together with friends, to commiserate on the single state by flocking to bars, lounges, restaurants, and night clubs, and eat dark food such as the noodles and black bean sauce.  This mingling may even produce a meeting with someone special with whom to exchange gifts next Valentine’s and White Days.

photo from   morningcalmadness.blogspot.com

Personally I think this is all a splendid idea, despite the commercial proliferation.  Let’s have all the celebration we can.  This household is about to begin White Day and Black Day, unknown to the other occupant;)

In fact, it would appear that in Korea at least, every 14th of the month has become an excuse for buying something and having a celebration.

With love celebrations falling on the 14th of every month, plus anniversaries and important milestones (i.e. 100 days since a couple has met), South Korea has perfected the commercialized of romantic relationships in a way that would make even North American marketers envious.

It all starts with Diary Day, January 14, where lovers present each other diaries with all the important aforementioned dates circled in red. With the plethora of dates to observe throughout the year, it’s probably the most practical of the love holidays!

So, after the Diary Day, Valentine’s Day, White Day and Black Day, we have:

May 14th Rose Day:  As the atmosphere between the couple is supposedly good, it will be a day where couples give each other roses, as a sign of a developing relationship.

June 14th Kiss Day: In the event that things have been working out great between a couple up to now, a first kiss will be in order on this day.  Perhaps a very slow developing relationship?  Apparently, this is ALSO the day in the year when couples sit down and talk about everybody they’ve ever been with or kissed.  Sounds a bit problematical to me!

July 14 Silver Day: Now that things are moving on, this is the day where the lover is introduced for the first time to one’s seniors, including those at school, the work place, as well as the parents. The seniors will have to present the lovers with money, or silver and the couple may also exchange gifts made of silver.

August 14th Green Day: Summer days are hot so our lovers will seek out cool places to meet, and go for a romantic walk in the forests.  Singles will drink hard liquor with a Green theme – soju -to cheer up/drown their sorrows.

photo from  en.wikipedia.org –

September 14 Photo and Music Day: Now, it’s probably time to introduce your lover to your mates so time for a party, crank the music up and take those embarassing photographs.

October 14thWine Day: After all these months, today is the day to get serious and sit down to talk about whether you two were meant for each other.  So, choose a nice restaurant, have lovely wine and plan for the future.

November 14 Movie and Orange Day: With things firmly on track, time to make sure that your tastes match, so go to the movies and eat whatever you like but make sure to have some orange juice as a healthy extra:)  Also, drinking the slightly sour orange juice is supposed to be a reminder to couples of the ‘sour’ times they promise to share together in the days ahead.

December 14  Hug Day:  Winter is here and things are cold, so keep the relationship and your body temperature up to scratch, remember to have a hug today.

And for those businesses who have lost out so far this year there are even more!!

March 3 Because the “sam” in the Korean grilled pork dish samgyeopsal means “three,” some people celebrate by going out for a meaty dinner.

October 24 is Apple Day, and since the Korean word for “apple” is the same as “apology,” people often use the day to say they’re sorry to anyone they’ve hurt.

November 11th is Pepero Day,  when school kids across the country celebrate a favorite snack of long, thin biscuits dipped in chocolate because people think they look like the date 11/11 when lined up.

There are also rumours of an “Ace Day” to chomp on Ace Crackers on October 31, an attempt to replace the chocolately crunch of Pepero Day with the chewy, traditional plain rice cakes for Garetteok Day, and many more.

Well, I bet you wanted to know all that!   I am all celebrated out and there is no room for the European differences, perhaps another year.

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With Easter being very late this year, the garden is looking really Spring-like!

An unusually warm and sunny period has seen me out in the garden for hours and days on end trying madly to get on top of things before they get on top of me.  Hence yet another long silence on this blog.

I have planted up part of the Orchard as a woodland Spring garden and this year it has really come into its own: for once the plants have had a chance to open up and decorate the place for us in time for the holiday weekend.

The snowdrops are long over but the ‘Snowflakes’ are looking lovely with the small Spotted Dog flowers peeping out behind:

The Pheasant’s Eye Narcissus with the Dog’s-Tooth Violet clustering around them: I revel in the pure white of the Narcissus with that gloriously delineated edging to the tiny trumpet, and the delicate butterfly petals of the Dog’s Tooth which look as though they are about to fly away.

Some purple Snake’s-Head Fritillary with Primulas of different types, including Primroses:

Some ‘Native, Wild’ Tulips – so delicate compared with cultivated ones.

What I do not have and would really like are some Native, Wild Daffodils, also known as the Lent Lily, which are much smaller and paler with thinner, more delicate petals, than the cultivated types.   Perhaps I will be able to order some in the Autumn.

I have a species of Mahonia which has small flower heads rather than the more usual long spikes, but it smells deliciously of honey, which is why I chose this particular one.

In one corner I planted a white Bleeding Heart in front of it:

The Hellebores are also feeling floriforous this year:

They are always promiscuous and breed profusely, but I leave them to grow and flower before weeding out the ones which I do not want, just in case they produce a real beauty:)

I have a Flowering Currant too, but instead of a pink or red one, I have the yellow one: this smells gloriously of cloves, instead of the frequent cat pee scent of the red varieties, leading to them being called the Tom Cat Bush over here!

Like many of the plants in our garden this bush came from a friend, in this case from a very elderly lady, many years ago: a wander round here is a wander down memory lane and brings many people rushing back to my mind.

The two tall Magnolia trees frame the orchard at one end, majestically reigning over all: just before the petals fall the Lilac comes into bloom, accompanied by the Apple blossom.

The grass is awash with Daffodils: they were planted before we came here and have multiplied massively over the years.  They look marvellous, even though I regret that they are not the delicate pale native variety.  Here they are in a full view of part of the orchard –

I wanted to leave you with an Eastery picture of the orchard: five years ago I could have taken a photograph like this one below:

Unfortunately we have no chickens at the moment, so I have copied this from the website of rainingsideways.com – Sally Vincent’s Diary of Food and Life on a Devon Farm which is well worth a visit.

Whether you will be surrounded by children and chocolate eggs or rabbits, or real eggs,

or just a relaxing weekend with some sun and a good book,

I wish you all a very Happy Easter weekend.


NB  Of course, over here we only have a three day week after Easter this year since we have another long weekend afterwards with the Royal Wedding followed by another Bank Holiday.  Some people are finding themselves with eleven days holiday, which is only ‘costing’ them three actual days!

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Quite an adjustment to being back. It is all so different from Paris.   Snow for a start, and then it is sooo cold in an old stone cottage compared with a warm city flat.

Kind husband had made a start on varnishing our sitting room ceiling, which is wooden, but it was a lengthy process and took us several days to complete:  during that time the one place to sit down in comfort was really only the bathroom!

The ceiling now glows with the old dirt of ages removed and the matt varnish bringing out the colours and the grain in the wood.  Just some sanding down, filling, and then painting to do on the walls and the room will look rejuvenated.  Not finished by Christmas though so it is lucky that family and friends asked us to them this year.

On a more melancholy note many people I know are having a really tough time at the moment.  To those of you reading this I am so sorry and wish you a speedy and positive resolution to your difficulties.

I woke up this morning having dreamt that my greatest friend and I had gone away together and were visiting a place (imaginary) near where we were brought up: we went there because (in the dream) our mothers used to go there.  It was a beautiful spot in the country, beside a lake, where there was a horse sale, a nice one, not a sad type of horse sale, with a view over the lake, through trees to the horizon.  It was sunny and we sat and talked about our mothers while we looked at the horses.

This friend has been very much in my mind of late.  It was her mother who died in October and who was like a second mum to me: in a matter of  six days my friend has had to have two horses and her dog ‘put down’ – all within a matter of two months after her mother’s death.  That is a terrible lot of loss to have to deal with.  Animals who live with you for a long time, are not only valuable in their own right, but also have spent many years with you: a great deal of your life and memories are tied up in that animal.

I feel that there is little I can do or am needed to do: my friend is strong and will just get on with things.  But I am so sad for her and the pain she will go through and I am aware that she is on my mind.  The dream clearly illustrates that.  But it was such a happy dream, which is lovely.

We have had a lovely time reconnecting with family and friends after several weeks apart: but a lot of socialising in a short time is quite tiring.  We never managed to write our Christmas cards or annual letter so will try to send them by New Year.  At least there is not a great deal of cooking to do for several days, with leftovers occupying most cold spots around the place.

Feeding the birds and wild animals is proving quite an undertaking: the bird feeders empty so fast in this cold and their water freezes over so fast: the horses’ water is freezing inside the stables.  One night my sister saw a fox walking over a neighbour’s pond desperately looking for any unfrozen water to drink: we have opened up the window into the outside privy so that any birds or animals who wish may go in to to find shelter.  A few days thaw is forecast which may be good: it just depends on whether we get water on top of snow which then freezes into sheet ice like last year.

Large badgers are appearing and eating anything and everything we put out for them: at least they look large, it may just be that their fur is all fluffed up for insulation.  Leonard the gecko is very sluggish and not eating much.  I gave him a nice warm bath the other day which helped both his old skin sloughing off and boosted his circulation: however, it is hard getting him to eat when he is fairly cool despite the heating pad in his box.  But there is no way we can keep the house at a higher temperature all the time.

People are talking about looking forward to the end of winter but it has not really begun yet.  Mid-January is when it usually really gets a grip so I wait somewhat anxiously to see what else is in store for us.  Our first winter here in 1977 the snow lasted for six months: of course I was younger  then and loved it: snow picnics with smoked haddock kedgeree, hot soup, cherry cake, bars of chocolate and sledging in the woods: long walks through the deep drifts with our five dogs all chasing snowballs, barking, romping and having the time of their lives: friends’ and neighbours’ children coming to use our steep field to sledge down, sometimes in black rubbish sacks and then piling together round the fire for hot cinnamon toast: ice covered twigs and berries looking magical: I never remember being bothered by the ice or cold although by the end of six months I was ready for a break.

Well, we’ll see what the winter of 2011 brings.  Thank goodness for double glazing and central heating, even if we do not know how we will pay for it next year!

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