Monday, 7 December 2015

'Tis the season to eat Hob-nobs!

The South of France can by no means be mistaken for Australia, but in a similar way, Christmas here just doesn’t feel quite right.  For a start, the sun is shining and the temperature has been hitting 20 degrees recently, there are no carol singers knocking at the door – just the firemen and refuse men calling to offer season’s greetings and a calendar (for a small donation), and, unlike England, where feverish Christmas preparations began in the shops in September, here the shops only become ‘Christmassy’ around the end of November.  Christmas Cards haven’t really caught on, and the final straw is that Christmas only lasts one day here –Boxing Day doesn’t exist and everybody is back at work!

I was feeling very ‘Bah Humbug’ about the whole thing, until yesterday, when I finally discovered the true Spirit of Christmas – the annual British Christmas MarchĂ© at St. Jean Pla-de-Corts.  While most of us who have chosen to live in France must have all said at one point or another that we wanted to integrate, live the French lifestyle and adopt local customs, there does come a point where you have to cave in – and Jammie Dodgers are my weak-spot! 

This market has a great range of stalls with local wine producers and artisans offering a great range of presents, but the stalls which always seem to attract the most attention (and not just from me!) are those offering ‘delicacies’ from the UK which are hard to track down here.  I am talking about Mince Pies, Jacobs Cream Crackers, Christmas Puddings, Crackers, Chocolate Hobnobs and Jammie Dodgers! 

While the children eagerly look forward to their meeting with Santa, the adults look forward to meeting another ‘legendary’ figure – Mister Saucisse!  This is actually a guy called Tim (who confusingly this year was wearing a Santa outfit) who makes his own range of sausages and descends from somewhere above Carcassonne to deliver to various towns and villages around the Languedoc.

I was so filled with the Christmas spirit that I went off to Perpignan this morning to continue my Christmas shopping and realized that there is actually something very important that the French do so much better than us.... to hear those magic words 'c'est pour offrir' - and then to have your purchase whisked away and expertly gift-wrapped - is music to my ears!  

Wishing everybody a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Update on Injury

I would like to begin by saying a big thank you to my brother – who, even after all these years continues to delight in finding ways to embarrass his sister.  No I didn’t know he was taking the photo, yes it was a windy day, as usual I am wearing the dog’s lead and carrying her tennis ball (surely that is her job?), and I didn’t spot the ‘Access Handicapes’ sign until later! 

So a brief update on my foot.  That photo was taken one week ago and as you can see, I could manage stairs and get around without the crutches.  Today (4 weeks after the accident) I can at last wear proper shoes again and just need one crutch if I am on stairs or uneven ground.  It has been a very frustrating month – no driving, missing several telephone calls (as I could not run to answer the phone), but at least for me it is temporary and I can see an end in sight.  It has made me much more aware of how difficult life must be if you have a permanent handicap.  La Poste in my village is a particular case in point; it has recently been completely renovated and they have installed a long and winding ramp for wheelchair access.  Once you get to the front door there is a button and a notice which informs you that to gain entry you need to ring the buzzer and pull the door towards you at the same time.  Difficult enough when you are on crutches but completely impossible if you were in a wheelchair! 

But for me I can see an end in sight – particularly after something which happened today.  We were in the town of Amelie-les-Bains (a thermal spring resort where many old people go to ‘take the waters’) and I certainly didn’t feel out of place hobbling around on my crutch.  We were there to view a new property for sale and in fact the 90 year old owner was more speedy on her crutches than I was!  After the visit we were walking back to the car when an old man in a cafĂ© started chatting and he asked me what was wrong with my foot.  He then asked me to have confidence in him and gestured for me to put my foot on his lap. He waved his hands over the affected area and asked me if I could feel anything.  Apart from ‘embarrassment’ I have to admit I could feel a certain coolness and it was as if the pain was being sent away and he said he practiced ‘biomagnetic healing’. Despite the fact that my partner has not stopped laughing and muttering things about ‘old men and women in short skirts’ I actually feel it might have worked!  Watch this space – you may yet see me on Strictly come Dancing!