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Diabetes Logo

This week marks the end of the testing season–feet, heart, liver, kidneys, prostate, skin–you name it!

On Monday it was the annual love fest with Dr Nguyen Ngoc Luong, my opthamologist.

A man of few words, Dr Luong sits on a swivel chair with an alarming revolving table to his right.

At the push of a button this table goes in to action, swinging round to position a new chin rest at eye level between me and the good Doctor. This happens three times in the course of the test.

Then comes the checking of my long sight.

Reading off the numbers or letters projected on the wall opposite, as Dr Luong slips different lenses in and out of the “pince-nez” he fastens onto my nose.

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I feel like a schoolboy keen to answer teacher’s questions correctly.

Now it’s time for the most intimate moment of the session.

We both shift nervously on our chairs preparing to stare into one another’s eyes for a few breathless moments.

My freshly shaved chin juts towards his as he points a penetrating light at my pupils–shining  it into every corner of my cornea and beyond.

Breaking the spell, he leans back and utters three precious words. To my relief–a few days short of Valentine’s Day–not “I Love You” but…

“Pas de diabétes!”

I uncross my fingers–and feel foolish again for indulging in the Superstition Game.

Another year CLEAR!

 

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Meredith shows me a Breugel 16th century winter scene reminiscent of the world outside our windows at the moment–except for the skating.

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It leads her into thinking of other artists’ depiction of winter.

“Who was that painter we liked at the Metropolitan after we saw that Matisse exhibit a few years back? Industrial landscapes and the boxers. Remember?”

Club Night by George Bellows

“B-B-B-Be…”

I use my hands to mime the thing that fans a fire into life.

“Be-Be-Bel-Bello-BELLOWS!”

“George Bellows–brilliant realist painter–died too young–42, he was. Painted winter–town and country.”

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“Wow!” says Meredith. “Nothing wrong with your memory!”

Next day this article appeared in the newspaper–explaining why…!

Apparently the antioxidant, resveratrol, found in the skin of red grapes, some berries and peanuts, has a positive effect on the hippocampus–the part of the brain vital to memory, learning and mood.

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Cheers! Santé! Good health! Chin chin! Salud! Prost!

Now what did I say was for supper…?!

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I used to think walking was pedestrian!

I ran or jogged, or bicycled–walking took so long.

But then we moved here to rural France, where it’s a bit hilly. As I was getting older, I started walking.

Six times a week–usually for about 40 minutes–usually the same route, which never felt the same two days running (so to speak)!

Then one day I OVERDID it–and my left knee “went”.

I stopped for a while and tried the exercise bike– but it wasn’t the same.

Gradually my knee healed and I started walking again, but less–three or four times a week.

I settled into a routine of roughly 40 minutes every other day.

Three times 40 equals 120--so some weeks I was 30 minutes shy of the 150 minutes recommended aerobic exercise per week.

Recently I changed my routine again: Now I walk every day but for less time–a little over 20 minutes.

So that ring ups the magic 150.

And I feel good on it. “Ah, that’s done!

Exercising each day–but not TOO long–lifts my spirits without becoming a burden.

One is less likely to throw in the towel.

(Also I’m thinking of my knees.)

I’m in good company…

 

If I could not walk far and fast, I think I should just explode and perish.

~Charles Dickens

 The sovereign invigorator of the body is exercise and of all the exercises, walking is the best.

~Thomas Jefferson

 I am a slow walker, but I never walk backwards.

~Abraham Lincoln

 To find new things, take the path you took yesterday.  

~John Burroughs (American naturalist)

Thoughts come clearly while one walks.

~Thomas Mann

The best remedy for a short temper is a long walk.

~Jacqueline Schiff  (poet)

 

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Sucrine they are called here in France, I guess because they have a sweetness to them.

These tightly packed little tornadoes are known as baby gem lettuce in the UK.

They have an agreeable crunchiness that lends itself to strong contrasts–hence the addition of anchovy.

Anchovies are usually a background sound in cooking but here they solo occasionally. I love ‘em–but they are not to everyone’s taste.

I ordered this a couple of days ago in our new favorite restaurant–Chez Germaine in Gaillac.

A pre-movie (Whiplash) lunch with Donald Douglas (aka Cap’n McNeil in Poldark!) and Emma Temple, his partner.

This place is the French version of a tapas bar–warm and convivial–and the food comes in small quantities on individual plates. I ordered a plate of baby squid persillade (in parsley and garlic oil) and this salad. Perfect with a glass of the local red wine (Gaillac).

The combination of the crispness of the lettuce and creaminess of the goat’s cheese with the occasional bite of anchovy had everyone dipping in!

Meredith–not too sure about anchovies showing up so brazenly–suggested substituting roasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds–good idea.

You could add them anyway–but I like the salad’s simplicity.

for two

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ingredients

2 sucrine (baby gem) lettuces–deconstructed and sliced up

half a goat’s cheese “log”–or other shapes–pulled apart to spread its creaminess

3 or 4 anchovy fillets–sliced into smaller pieces

dressing

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

4 tbsp olive oil

1 clove garlic–pulped in a mortar with a pinch of salt

salt and pepper

—————–

Add the lettuce to a favorite bowl.

Add the cheese and the anchovy pieces.

Make the vinaigrette

Add the wine vinegar to the garlic in the mortar and whisk.

Add the olive oil and whisk it in to make the vinaigrette.

Pour it over the contents of the bowl.

Turn everything over carefully until the little lettuce gleams with pride.

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Just back from UK where I recorded my memoir of Poldark as an audio book–with an extra chapter about taking part in the new BBC/Mammoth version–40 years after doing the original!

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Two days in a small, soundproof booth in a basement recording studio in Hove in Sussex, while the wind and the rain raged above ground.

I was fortunate to have three helpmates in the studio running the show–and keeping my nose to the microphone.

Chris Daniels, sound engineer, owns the studio and is a member of that fraternity of calm console operators who are never flustered.

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They have seen it all before–and behave as though they read the first verse of Rudyard Kipling’s poem, IF, before sitting down to work:

If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
 
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
    And you’ll be make a Sound Engineer, my son!
(With apologies to Mr. Kipling.)
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My old friend, Constantine de Goguel Toulouse-Lautrec–his grandmother was in St. Petersburg in the October Revolution of 1917 and survived–sat in the producer’s seat and guided a rusty performer through the sessions with grace and years of experience.
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He’s a fine actor and an experienced dialogue coach for movies.
He also runs Spoken Ink–subtitled “The Home of Short Audio“–well worth checking out.
Meredith made up the triumvirate as back-up producer keeping a beady eye on the script and an ear out for things that could be better (like the American pronunciation of “Potomac”!).
Her occasional ripple of involuntary laughter was a morale boost for The Man in the Sound Proof Booth!
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The project is in post production now. When complete, we’ll announce it here.

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Hiver est arrivé!

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Crisp and even!

Just as it should be but isn’t always these days as the seasons come unstuck.
They are planting the garlic and our birds are back on the bird table–tits, nuthatches and a robin.
Surprising how good it makes one feel–seasonal balance.

It helps this morning as we wait with our builders for someone from the La Mairie of Lautrec to arrive with the key to the church–the future of which has been an on-going concern, or to put it more crudely–has been bugging us for the past three months.

An unwelcome distraction from the food and everyday life blog.

The mayor (maire) announced at a meeting of the parishioners at the beginning of October (the first night of my cooking workshop, so Meredith had to go alone) that he is wants to sell the church.

He claimed that it is in a dangerous state and about to fall down.

Lautrec is in debt he said and short of money.

He claimed there was someone interested in buying the church and converting it into a living space.

Oh my goodness!

It’s no more than ten yards from the présbytere-the priest’s residence–our residence now.

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So IOBY (in our back yard)–literally.

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Ben on the lookout!

EEK!

Meredith suggested there were other solutions.

OK says the Mayor, you have three months.

Right…

The church is no oil painting but we have grown to love it and its reassuring presence.

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It was built about 1870–a hundred and fifty years after the presbytere (priest’s house) to replace the original chapel that was destroyed at the time of the French Revolution (1789-1794…).

In 1905 Church and State were separated by law in France and the churches became the property of local government.

SO–the church belongs to the commune.

In March at the local elections the Mairie changed hands and the new Maire decided that the church had to be sold.

(It was deconsecrated as a church sometime ago.)

A local woman had shown interest a couple of years ago but the then mayor assured us it was not for sale.

Phew!

After the election, however, the same woman approached the new mayor….

We have been busy these three months.

We’ve consulted notaries, lawyers, the citizens advice bureau in our local town and all agree, after studying the documents that there is NO ACCESS to the church from our side and our neighbors, the farmers who own the land surrounding the church say they will not grant access from their side.

NO ACCESS!

There is also NO WATER on the site and NO SANITATION--ie septic tank.

The only land is the narrow path that circles the building–NO TERRAIN.

As to the state of the building today two builders examined it inside and out and their shared opinion is that it is NOT ABOUT TO FALL DOWN.

There is structural work to be done to secure the chapel on the north side–but tis would not be “grande choses”.

One of them suggested that two exterior buttresses would render that chapel safe.

At the meeting in October the mayor assured the parishioners of St Martin, many of whom have family tombs in the adjacent cemetery and for whom the ongoing presence of the church building is significant, that it would retain it’s outward footprint—ie look the same.

The lawyers in Albi and Castres told us this assurance does not conform to French law in the case of rural churches.

Indeed the prospective buyer has told us that, if successful in her bid, she intends to knock down the two side chapels to provide window views on the north and south sides of the building.

SO MUCH FOR THE FOOTPRINT!

We heard last week that the town council has voted to sell the church.

Though many people we have talked to say “BE PATIENT!” this is MAD and will not happen, it is a distraction.

We have set up a worldwide petition in favor of preserving the church as a significant presence and with the possibility of using it as a cultural centre and exhibition space. Please sign it:

http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/save-the-church-of-st

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The interior of St Martin showing some of the murals depicting the life of St Martin.

 

 

 

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The name came into my head when I took the leftover Brussels sprouts out of the fridge with a view to frying them up for lunch today.

Bubble and Squeak--named for the noise they make in the pan while cooking.

Ho-hum–I didn’t hear a thing!

Wasn’t this quaintly-named concoction part of my mother’s post Christmas leftover strategy?

Dishes to go with cold turkey that only needed heating up?

Then a memory of added bacon floated into my mind.

Didn’t bacon get mixed into the brussels?

Well, bacon bits were already part of the feast on Christmas day–no harm in adding even more oven-crisped smoked bacon to the fried-up sprouts….

They’ll go nicely with a slice of the chickpea (socca) bread cooked in the oven as well.

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Add a poached/fried egg and “Bob’s your uncle”–to revive another phrase from my childhood.

 

1 small onion–chopped

1 clove of garlic–chopped

leftover cooked Brussels sprouts–chopped

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leftover Swiss chard–chopped (or you might have some OTHER leftover to try out in this recipe!)

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a few very thin rashers of bacon–smoked or green to taste

olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a sauté pan and add the onion and garlic.

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Let them color a little before adding the brussels and the swiss chard (or other leftovers).

Mix together and cook gently for about 10 minutes–just long enough to heat them through.

Cook the bacon separately to a crisp state and scatter broken up bit over the sprouts.

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Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

We enjoyed it on a slice of the homemade socca–chickpea flour–bread.

And the only sound was “umm”!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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